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Holiday Hair and Nails

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The gift of healthy hair and nails can be yours this season with help from a nutritious diet, supplements and pampering beauty treatments. Luxurious hair starts beneath your scalp in the papilla, where new hair follicles are produced. There are openings for sebum (oil) from the skin's sebaceous gland to flow.

The gift of healthy hair and nails can be yours this season with help from a nutritious diet, supplements and pampering beauty treatments.

Luxurious hair starts beneath your scalp in the papilla, where new hair follicles are produced. There are openings for sebum (oil) from the skin's sebaceous gland to flow. When hair has enough oil, the cuticles on the outside of the hair shaft lay smooth and give hair a shiny appearance. Over-treatment, chemical processes and illness can cause hair cuticles to become rough and appear dull.

To help dull hair regain its shine, start by consuming foods rich in silica such as horsetail tea, rolled oats and millet. Vitamin A is found in dark green vegetables, while orange-coloured fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene. Strong hair needs the vitamin B and choline found in green beans, as well as the sulphur found in eggs. A daily intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids from flax seed, primrose and cold-water fish oils can help prevent dry hair. Taking a multivitamin supplement that includes choline, calcium and magnesium, a 1,000 mg supplement of silica daily and 50 mg of vitamin B-complex twice daily will also help do the trick.

Everyone's hair is different and should be treated accordingly. Oily hair requires frequent shampooing to unclog the scalp and to distribute natural oil down the hair shaft. As a conditioning shampoo for oily hair, try adding a herbal infusion of yarrow, sage and mint and the essential oils of bergamot, cypress or orange to your regular shampoo.

To make an infusion, steep a chopped herb or a mixture of herbs in a pot of boiled water for a minimum of 10 minutes. Then strain. To make a conditioning shampoo, blend:

  • three-and-a-half teaspoons (18 ml) of your favourite shampoo

  • three teaspoons (15 ml) of an appropriate herbal infusion (depending on your hair type)

  • one teaspoon (5 ml) of carrier oil (sweet almond, jojoba, olive)

  • four to 20 drops of an appropriate essential oil (depending on hair type).

Dry hair is less elastic and will only stretch half as much as normal hair. Breakage occurs easily because of a lack of oil inside the shaft, so avoid using a brush and stick to a wide-toothed comb with rounded teeth. Don't avoid shampooing frequently because you think it will dry out your hair. The cleaner the scalp, the easier it is for sebum to travel down to the ends of the hair especially if you include the herbs calendula, chamomile and oat straw and the essential oils sandalwood and palmarosa into your shampoo. If your hair is damaged from treatments, try an infusion of calendula and coltsfoot, plus the essential oils of comfrey, horsetail or seaweed.

Holiday hair magic can start with a deep conditioning carrot and avocado treatment. Just grate a carrot and add enough of carrier oil to make a paste. Stir it into mashed avocado pulp, which contains vitamin B, magnesium and monounsaturated oils. Massage the mixture into your scalp and hair and leave it on for an hour. Wash it out with a mild shampoo and apply a citric juice rinse to shrink the hair's cuticles and give your hair a smoother texture.

Fingernail Fetish

Take a look at your hands. Are these the nails you always wanted? Poor diet, stress, genetics and illness all play a role in nail health. Spoon-shaped nails are a sign of anemia. Eating iron-rich foods, such as parsley, leeks, broccoli and spinach, and taking vitamin C supplements to increase iron absorption will help. Avoid tea as it inhibits iron absorption. Bands and white spots on your nails are a sign of zinc deficiency or minor nail trauma. Brewer's yeast and raw unroasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds are good sources of zinc. As with your hair, silica will strengthen and improve the appearance of your nails.

If your fingers need some extra TLC, try making your own nail strengthening oil. Just add two drops of the essential oils sandalwood and cypress (which tone your venous system) with two drops of lavender (which soothes inflammation) into one tablespoon (15 ml) of moisturizing almond oil. Blend the oils and store it in a dark bottle. Heat the bottle in a bowl of hot water before applying the oil daily. If you have sensitive skin, try combining one-and-a-half teaspoons (eight ml) of brewed horsetail tea with 10 drops of antiseptic essential myrrh oil. Add the blend to one tablespoon (15 ml) of lanolin and use as needed.

With a bit of effort, healthy hair and attractive nails can be at your fingertips.

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